Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
dirs. Box, Park
Opens Fri Oct 7
Various Theaters

Unlike nearly all current animated films from America, Nick Park and Steve Box's Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit doesn't have a bunch of flashy CG (it has a bit, but it's pretty low-key). And it doesn't have an encyclopedia of celebrity voices (unless you rank Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter as sure-fire draws). And the claymation in the British film is notable for appearing even more time-consuming than Tim Burton's stop-motion efforts. Yet, with characters based on Park's Oscar-winning short films, Wallace & Gromit has more personality, heart, and charm in any frame than in the entirety of most American kid-targeted epics.

Here there's Wallace, a cheese-loving inventor, and his loyal dog, Gromit; for work, the two humanely capture the rabbits that eat up their town's gardens—until a "were-rabbit" shows up to terrorize the town's produce. As amusing as the plot's turns can be, the focus here is firmly on the characters; just as in his shorts, Park infuses his plasticine creations with more character, love, and humor than most live-action films (or even live-action people).

But then reality sets in: As smart, charming, and funny as Wallace & Gromit is, it won't make a tenth of the box office gross of whatever formulaic CG flick that DreamWorks or Fox or Disney are prepping (Ice Age 2, anyone?). As Wallace & Gromit's end credits roll, one can't help but feel both delighted by the film and a bit sad that American animation (let's leave Pixar out of this, shall we?) still doesn't get it—that regardless of how slick the animation, how manic the pacing, or how famous the voices, nothing comes close to what Wallace & Gromit is: animation with soul.